How to Camouflage a Mini Split Unit: 15 Great Design Ideas
Ductless HVAC can do an amazing job of heating and cooling your home. But, the units don’t always match a home’s décor or architectural design. Fortunately, there are ways to camouflage a mini split so it’s out of sight while still working great.
But, you need to know how to do it right.
And, you may want some inspiration on how, exactly, to hide your mini split. In this article, I’ll provide you with 15 fantastic design ideas to help make a ductless system blend in without compromising its performance or air circulation.
I’ve learned these from working with Cipollone Heating and Air Conditioning for over a decade. My family founded the company in the 1950s, and today we specialize in high-efficiency HVAC. I’ve personally installed hundreds of mini split systems in Main Line homes
So, keep reading to learn the principles of air handlers and heat pumps, and their role in heating and cooling your home. We’ll also discuss the importance of proper clearance for different types of mini split air handlers and heat pumps to ensure optimal performance.
Then, we’ll dig into some great creative brainstorming ideas for your new system.
Finally, reach out for a free consultation if you want to learn more about installing a mini split and live in Havertown, Wynnewood, or anywhere on the Main Line.
What to Know About Mini Split Air Circulation and Performance
Before you start brainstorming interior design strategies to camouflage your ductless mini split system, you need to consider how air handlers and heat pumps heat and cool.
You don’t want to design or install something near a unit that will affect its performance or air circulation. Ductless HVAC is especially energy efficient. You want your system optimized so it’s always working at its best.
How Air Handlers Circulate Air
The air handlers inside your home draw in air from the room. That air passes over an evaporator coil inside the unit that either removes or adds heat to the air. Once the heating or cooling is complete, the unit re-circulates that air in the room.
The most common types of air handlers are the rectangular wall-mounted units you often see hanging near a ceiling. Other models include a ceiling mount or recessed cassette. They look like vents on the ceiling and don’t stick out at all.
Other wall units are floor models that are skinny, taller than high mounted systems, and hang on the wall touching the floor.
Whichever type of air handler you choose, it’s important to ensure proper clearance around the unit for optimal performance.
Clearance Requirements for a Mini Split Air Handler
In general, a high-wall unit should have six inches of clearance above it, one to two feet below it, 12 inches on either side, and a few feet in front of it.
Floor units are usually six inches off the ground with another foot of clearance above it. Once again, try to keep a foot of clearance around it and two feet clear in front of it.
Recessed ceiling cassettes need one foot of space on every side. Now, you might notice these requirements won’t be possible with some of the suggestions below. That may not be a problem!
Different models and brands have varying specifications. If you have something specific in mind, let your HVAC contractor know. They’ll help you choose the best model or let you know if you need to change your interior design plans.
How Heat Pumps Move Heat
Ductless mini split heat pumps, or outdoor units, extract warmth from the air in the winter and send it inside. In the summer, the air handlers send heat out to the heat pump, which expels that thermal energy into the outside air.
This is possible without a ducted system because it uses refrigerant that transfers heat only instead of air as well. The heat pump ists outside like an air conditioner unit. But, it’s usually a skinnier rectangle with a fan on the side instead of having the opening on the top.
Clearance Requirements for a Mini Split Heat Pump
Most manufacturers recommend leaving at least 12 inches of clearance around a heat pump. Unlike an AC unit, you can put it underneath a deck. That’s because of the side discharge fan. But, make sure you leave at least two feet of clearance in front of it.
10 Design Ideas Ideas For Hiding or Camouflaging Indoor Mini Split Units
Now that you know the guidelines, let’s get into ways to hide your mini split HVAC system, starting with the indoor units:
- Built-in Bookshelf: Build or buy a bookshelf that mounts to the wall around the air handler, with shelves starting just far enough below it for proper ventilation.
- Floating Shelves: Floating shelves can serve the same purpose of shelving. But, you don’t need something custom-built. And, they can be placed further from the unit to draw attention away from it.
- Custom Cabinet: Similar to a bookshelf, a large cabinet can frame the mini split in a way that doesn’t make it stick out. You’ll get more clearance with a cabinet than a tight bookshelf, making it a better option if you have the room.
- Decorative Screen: Place a decorative screen or room divider a few feet in front of the unit to hide it This works especially well in large rooms and open-floor plan areas.
- Wall Art: You can’t cover an air handler with a painting or framed photograph. But, you can place wall-mounted art strategically in the room to detract attention from the HVAC equipment.
- Use Corners: You can install an air handler in a corner or recessed area of a room, so long as it has enough clearance round it. They have many different circulation patterns, so it should still be able to move air without being centered in the room.
- Paint the Unit. You can decorate an indoor unit and line set without affecting its performance. Blend these components in with the wall. Or make them into accent pieces with striking designs.
- Hanging Plants: Hang plants from the ceiling in front of the mini-split unit. Once again, it needs the proper clearance. But, there’s a little wiggle room since air can pass around the leaves and stems.
- Follow Other Furniture: Do you have large cabinets, armoires, or breakfronts in the room? If so, align the indoor unit so the top of it aligns with the top of your furniture. The steady line helps the equipment blend into the décor.
- Use A Different Model: Floor-mount units are usually too low on the wall for people to notice. Ceiling cassettes are even less obtrusive because they are flush with the ceiling. Ask your contractor if one of those models will work in a room where you can’t seem to find a good place for a regular high-wall unit.
Five Ways to Camouflage Heat Pumps and Outdoor Mini Split Units
Now, let’s head outside to consider how you can camouflage your heat pump, or outdoor mini split unit.
Remember, the rules still apply about clearance: Make sure nothing’s too close to the heat pump.
- Conceal with Landscaping: One of the easiest ways to hide a heat pump or mini-split outdoor unit is to use landscaping to blend it in with the surrounding environment. You can use plants, shrubs, or even a small garden to create a natural-looking barrier around the unit.
- Build a Wooden Fence: Another way to camouflage a heat pump or mini-split outdoor unit is to build a wooden fence around it. You can paint the fence to match the color of your house or leave it natural for a rustic look You’ll need to leave three feat of space if you’re enclosing the entire unit. And, make sure the heat pump is accessible! You or an HVAC tech will need to clean it, inspect it, or repair it at some point.
- Build a Custom Enclosure: If you want a more permanent solution, you can build a custom enclosure to hide your heat pump or mini-split unit. You can use materials that match your house, such as brick or stone, and add decorative elements like windows or shutters to make it blend in seamlessly with your home’s exterior. Once again, however, make sure it’s accessible for cleaning or HVAC service.
- Install a Trellis: A trellis is a great way to add a decorative element to your outdoor space while also hiding your heat pump or mini-split unit. It still needs to follow clearance protocol, but it won’t inhibit airflow as much as a fence. One tip: Don’t plant vines on the trellis or near the heat pump! Eventually they’ll surround the unit and affect its performance.
- Use Decorative Screens: Decorative screens are a stylish way to hide your heat pump or mini-split unit. They come in a variety of designs and materials, including metal, wood, and vinyl.
FAQs About Concealing Or Camouflaging a Mini Split
Still have questions? Keep reading? Here are some common FAQs about concealing a mini split:
Should mini splits be covered in winter?
A mini split heat pump should not be covered in the winter, especially if it’s used for heating. Doing so blocks air and heat from moving in and out of the unit as intended. The covering may also attract small animals that tend to nest in covered units and cause damage.
What happens if a mini split is too close to the ceiling?
A wall-mounted mini split air handler will not work properly if it is too close to the ceiling. It requires a foot of clearance above the unit. This allows it to draw in enough air from the room and re-circulate it. Without that clearance, it will have to work harder to maintain airflow.
Contact us for a free consultation to learn more about installing a mini split system in your Havertown, PA home or anywhere on the Main Line.